Crew midfielders Kevan George and Tony Tchani volunteered at Faith Mission Community Kitchen, near Crew Stadium last week. The players assisted in serving lunch, as well as preparing future meals for local families in need.
Crew Brand Ambassador Frankie Hejduk's career intersected with Landon Donovan many times, from Bayer Leverkusen to the 2002 FIFA World Cup to Hejduk's late-career tenure with the LA Galaxy. The two also played together in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, where Hejduk recalls one of his favorite Donovan stories.
"[Donovan] was always staying after," said Hejduk. "He was always hitting balls after training. Guys were always on the bus and he was always the last to come on. I was going, 'Man, who is this guy? Does he think he's a superstar?' So we started joking, 'Hey, Superstar! Come on, get on the bus!' It became a thing that Olympics where it was something that I had already foreseen that ended up happening, because he did become a superstar. That name stuck with him forever.
"At the beginning, he was like, 'No, you have to stop calling me that,' but it stuck and everyone would laugh about it. It became just a funny thing in that tournament, and we had a great tournament ... In that tournament, he did what he always does. He came in and scored goals, and you saw a glimpse of him being a superstar in that tournament. That was the first time that I saw a glimpse of him as a player, and I went, 'Wow, this kid's going to be something special.' It turns out that he did. I still to this day call him 'Superstar,' and I know that Gregg [Berhalter] calls him 'Superstar' too. It's stuck with him for all these years and he's deserved that name."
This three-match homestand, the Crew's only such stretch of the season, figured to be a crucial mid-to-late season opportunity to build up points for an MLS Cup Playoff charge. After dropping the first contest to Toronto FC, Saturday's meeting with the LA Galaxy takes on added importance, a fact that's not lost on defender Eric Gehrig.
"It's very important to win your home games," said Gehrig. "Especially when you have our fans and a crowd like that, it gives us an advantage every time we play at home. So far, it hasn't been good enough at home, but thankfully we have some opportunities coming up. Big game on Saturday, I know everyone's jacked up, including the fans. We'll be ready."
Over this week, as the Black & Gold prepare to face Landon Donovan and the LA Galaxy, TheCrew.com has recapped the greatest Donovan moments in Columbus. Michael Parkhurst has shared several of those moments with the LA Galaxy attacker.
In the Crew Captain's rookie MLS season, he was named to the 2005 MLS All-Star Game in Columbus alongside Donovan. Additionally, in what ended up being Donovan's final appearance in a competitive match against Mexico in what was a highly successful United States National Team career, Parkhurst was on the pitch with Landon when he scored at Crew Stadium in the 78th minute of the 2013 "Dos a Cero" match.
Given their shared connections to the League and U.S. Soccer, it's understandable that Parkhurst said that he was sad to see Donovan retire.
"I'm sad to see him go. From a competitive standpoint I still think he's one of the best players in the League. Obviously for what he's done for U.S. Soccer and MLS, nobody's done anything more. He's an icon and he'll be missed."
Hector Jimenez has had a firsthand look at Landon Donovan's career, as the Crew midfielder played with Donovan from 2011-2013 with the LA Galaxy. Not only that, but Jimenez, a Huntington Park, California native, was a fan of the Galaxy growing up. When he got to LA as a rookie in 2011, Jimenez said that it was an honor to play alongside Donovan.
"It was special just to be around him ... Being in the stands and being able to see him play and then being able to win two MLS Cups with him, like I said, it was something really special that I'll cherish forever."
Jimenez added that his favorite Donovan memory also involved a personal connection to the MLS and United States National Team great.
"My first assist was to one of his goals, so I think I'll remember that one forever for sure."
When Landon Donovan was asked about his favorite memories at Crew Stadium, one thing he specifically mentioned was watching Josh Wolff score in the very first "Dos a Cero" match, all the way back in 2001. Wolff, who played with Donovan at the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups, spoke about how Donovan was as a teammate:
"He held himself to a different standard. With that, it creates that competition and realness to training. As a forward, and being an older forward, you look down and he's certainly right there doing the work, doing everything he could to be a starter all the time. Even though he was 20 years old, he was competing for it. You had to appreciate his work ethic every day. Certainly as he got older, his understanding of the game started to elevate. His quality on the field, we always saw, but the mental aspect that he brought to it each and every day was always recognizable."
Ahead of his final trip to Columbus, Landon Donovan took the time to reflect on his favorite memories from his matches here, which included multiple appearances for the United States National Team, the 2001 MLS Cup Final and the 2005 MLS All-Star Game.
When push came to shove, however, Donovan went with two specific "Dos a Cero" memories as his favorites.
"My two favorites [memories] are my first [World Cup Qualifier vs. Mexico], which I didn't actually play in the game, but being on the bench and watching Josh Wolff [and Earnie Stewart] score," said Donovan. "Winning 2-0 for the first time there and just realizing what a special atmosphere it was. Some of us had played in big games around the world and experienced that, but we'd never experienced that at home. So to have that was really incredible. Then my last experience [at Crew Stadium], playing Mexico and winning 2-0, was special. To score a goal there in what ended being my last game against Mexico was really special."
What do you think, Crew fans? Do you agree with Donovan? Vote on your favorite memory of Landon's career at Crew Stadium and let your voice be heard.
Fans in Columbus have been treated to many memorable Landon Donovan moments in this city over the years. With the American soccer legend set to retire following the season, Saturday's match figures to be the final time Donovan will ever appear on the Crew Stadium pitch. His coach, Bruce Arena, reflected on that from Los Angeles:
"Landon's had a lot of good moments in Columbus," said Arena, who also has ties to the Crew through his coaching career alongside Gregg Berhalter. "Obviously with the National Team, the number of victories, especially over Mexico … I think he won an MLS Cup in Columbus as well.
"Obviously there are a lot of big moments with the National Team and with his club teams in Columbus. It'll be sad to see it as the last time around on Saturday, but having said that, I think he's had nothing but great experiences there."